PhD California Institute of Technology, 2006
BS Gettysburg College, 2000
synthetic organic chemistry, organometallic catalysis, environmentally sustainable chemical synthesis
My students and I are interested in the broad field of synthetic organic chemistry, including the development of environmentally sustainable processes. Our main areas of research include:
- the synthesis of complex structures inspired by nature;
- the application of transition metal catalysts to organic chemistry;
- the development of sustainable chemical synthesis methods;
- the synthesis of organic polymers with photocleavable crosslinks;
- the design and synthesis of unnatural, functionalizable lipids.
We are currently developing air-stable (cyclopentadienone)iron di- and tricarbonyl compounds for use as transfer hydrogenation and dehydrogenation catalysts. Iron has a high natural abundance on earth, so these catalysts are more sustainable than those based on precious metals. We are also exploring the use of plant-based hydrogen donors and acceptors, which further increases the sustainability of these reactions. We discovered that these compounds catalyze a variety of oxidative and reductive transformations including alcohol oxidations, ketone and aldehyde reductions, oxidative cyclizations of diols, and selective epoxide ring-openings. Catalyst design is at the heart of our work, and we are constantly thriving to develop more active, air-stable iron catalysts. Additionally, we are interested in understanding the mechanism of these iron-catalyzed reactions to aid in further catalyst development. We have received funding from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, and the National Science Foundation.